As the fields for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup races continue to take shape, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we could see an impressive number of past winners return with an eye on adding additional Breeders’ Cup titles to their records.
All told, eight previous Breeders’ Cup winners—six from 2017 and two from 2016—could see action at Churchill Downs four weeks from now. Some will be attempting to win back-to-back renewals of a single race, while others will be changing divisions and seeking even greater glory.
Let’s take a look at the potential list of returning champions….
Battle of Midway (2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile)
Not many Breeders’ Cup winners come all the way back from retirement in an effort to defend their titles, but that’s exactly what Battle of Midway is attempting. Retired to stud after his late-running Dirt Mile victory, Battle of Midway proved sterile and was put back into training, with the results so far being a runner-up effort in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. II) and a fifth-place finish in the Kelso Handicap (gr. II). He’ll need to step up his game a notch to defend his Dirt Mile title, but his third start off the long layoff might well be his best yet.
Mendelssohn (2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf)
Mendelssohn may have won the Juvenile Turf last year, but don’t expect to see him in a turf race this time around. The Ireland-based three-year-old is targeting a start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and based off of his gutsy pace-pressing third-place finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) last time out, he might not be overmatched even while facing the best dirt horses in North America.
New Money Honey (2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf)
Trained by Chad Brown, New Money Honey is nominated to the E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. I) this Saturday at Woodbine, and while that prestigious race is a worthy goal in and of itself, if she impresses in Canada she could certainly wheel back in three weeks for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Oscar Performance (2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf)
Winner of the Juvenile Turf two years ago, Oscar Performance found the 1 ½-mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Turf to be too far last year, so this time around he’ll cut back substantially in distance for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I). Considering that Oscar Performance co-holds the North American record for a mile on turf, he looms as the horse to beat.
Roy H (2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint)
Following a couple of disappointing defeats at short prices, Roy H got back on track with a decisive victory in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I), which should set him up well for a defense of his Breeders’ Cup Sprint title. But he’ll face tough opposition at Churchill Downs, including last year’s Sprint runner-up Imperial Hint, who has won two Grade 1 races of his own this year.
Rushing Fall (2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf)
Another talented filly from the deep barn of Chad Brown, Rushing Fall is scheduled to compete in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. I) at Keeneland this Saturday, which could potentially serve as a prep race for the Filly & Mare Turf.
Stormy Liberal (2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint)
Timing is everything. Stormy Liberal may have lost his first four starts following his 30-1 upset victory in the 2017 Turf Sprint, but the Peter Miller-trained has battled back to win his last three starts by two noses and a head, including the Eddie D. Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita, so he appears to be rounding back into peak form just in time to defend his title.
Talismanic (2017 Breeders’ Cup Turf)
He was no match for some of Europe’s best runners in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), but it’s hard to knock anything else Talismanic has done this year, which includes a runner-up effort in a quality renewal of the Prix Foy (Fr-II) two starts back. Without any standout U.S. runners to defend the home turf, Talismanic could well be poised to score a repeat victory in the Turf if he makes the trip.